There should be no delay in ignition, otherwise you will spend decades there. India began its Covid-19 vaccination campaign this Saturday. A huge challenge given national constraints: the number of inhabitants (1.3 billion), but also safety, uncertain infrastructure and public mistrust.
The second most populous nation on the planet plans to vaccinate 300 million people, almost the equivalent of the US population, by July. Knowing that it is the second country most affected – after the United States, still – by the Covid-19, with more than 10 million declared cases and more than 150,000 deaths to be deplored, even if the death rate is there one of the weakest in the world.
Two chosen vaccines
The 30 million healthcare workers and those most exposed to the disease will be the first to be vaccinated, followed by around 270 million people over the age of 50 or in a state of great vulnerability. On the first day of this campaign, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, 300,000 people will be inoculated with the first dose of vaccine.
The campaign, in fact, is based on two vaccines. Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council for Medical Research, and Covishield, a version developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. Both produced by the Serum Institute of India and approved “urgently” in early January. They are “100% safe”, then assured the Comptroller General of Drugs of India, adding that the regulator “would never give its approval if there was the slightest concern in matters of safety”.
The ‘model’ of elections
In Delhi, the capital, 81 vaccination centers “are ready” to operate four days a week, and “240,000 health personnel have registered” to benefit from it. About 150,000 staff in 700 districts have been specially trained in the country, while India has conducted several national preparedness exercises involving, in particular, the simulation of the transport of vaccine doses and dummy injections.
The authorities say they will build on the experience gained from the elections and polio and tuberculosis vaccination campaigns. However, these campaigns represent “a much smaller exercise”, recalled Satyajit Rath, from the National Institute of Immunology, while the vaccination against Covid-19 is “deeply demanding”.
In a country so vast and poor, with often poor road networks and one of the most poorly funded health systems in the world, the operation is indeed a colossal challenge, especially since both vaccines require to be stored at very low temperature. If India has four “mega-depots” to receive vaccines and transport them to distribution centers in different states in temperature-controlled vehicles, the final step may prove to be much more difficult to master.
The challenge also lies in the instability and reliability of communication networks, while the government intends to manage the entire process using digital technologies through, among other things, a government application, CoWIN – which already exists. several counterfeits. In addition, the authorities have set up an important high security police and technological system around the “precious” vaccine convoys across the country.
It also remains to convince the population. Because the arrival of the vaccine arouses a certain skepticism fueled by a flood of disinformation online. According to a recent survey of 18,000 people, 69% of them said they were in no rush to get vaccinated.